Overview from ESPN
Monday, July 26, 2004
Chat with Scouts, Inc., at 2 p.m. EST today!
Training camps start late this year, with the first rookies not due to report
until July 27. But Insider will keep the NFL fires burning all month with
complete training camp previews of each team. Scouts, Inc., has sized up every
roster and checks in with position-by-position breakdowns.
In terms of overall talent of the unit, the Rams are clearly not as deep with
Marc Bulger and newcomer Chris Chandler than they were with Bulger and Kurt
Warner. However, with coach Mike Martz and the Rams' organization finally
putting an end to its quarterback soap opera, the team as a whole is much better
BulgerThis is finally Bulger's team, and often times that confidence of knowing
that you don't have to look over your shoulder every time you make a mistake can
be invaluable for a quarterback. Bulger has proved that he can be effective as a
starter. He is still young and has the upside to develop into an even better
player with more experience in the future.
However, in order for Bulger to take his game to the next level he must cut down
on his mistakes, force fewer passes if his primary target is not open, and
become more consistent with his deep ball. For as many good things as he did in
'03, throwing as many interceptions (22) as touchdowns is unacceptable. That
type of carelessness with the football will prevent the Rams from making a
serious run at another Super Bowl, which is why so much time and effort in the
offseason and preseason is being spent on building Bulger's confidence and
working with him to limit his mistakes.
Chandler will be 38 years old in October and is nearing the end of his string
quickly. He obviously has great starting experience and has proved in the last
couple of seasons that he can step in for the short term and move an offense. He
also is intelligent and has a history of picking things up quickly, so he should
be ready to run the offense this season if needed.
However, his skills are on a heavy decline and, as a result of his age and
durability problems, he no longer can be trusted as a multiple game starter if
necessitated by injury. Chandler was signed to be Bulger's backup in '04, but
the Rams need to make sure they find a replacement for Chandler -- whether it's
rookie Jeff Smoker or another veteran addition -- in '05, because Chandler is
just a decent backup at this point and he's on a steep decline.
Smoker, who slipped on draft day because of a substance-abuse problem in
college, was a great find for coach Mike Martz that late in the draft. Smoker
has dealt with his problems and showed a lot of courage by returning to his team
and re-assuming the leadership role. He has the physical tools of a third-round
quarterback and could wind up becoming Bulger's backup by '05.
FaulkMarshall Faulk is still one of the elite weapons at the position when he is
fully healthy, but he is aging and the wear and tear of 10 NFL seasons has begun
to take a serious toll on his body. He turned 31 in February and has had two
knee surgeries in the last year.
The Rams drafted Steven Jackson in the first round not only to help spell Faulk
as a short-yardage and goal-line runner, but also to take over for him in the
near future as the full-time starter. If the team can find a way to keep Faulk
healthy by spelling him more with Jackson, it could help to extend his career.
Either way, Faulk is clearly on the decline and might only have two seasons left
as a premier NFL back.
Jackson is a workhorse who never has had a major injury despite rushing for more
than 3,600 yards in college. Jackson is not as fast, elusive or explosive as
Faulk, but he is bigger and more powerful as an inside runner. Jackson is also a
versatile back with the potential to do it all in this offense once he develops.
He emerged as one of the most complete and dominating backs in college football
last season with 1,545 rushing yards on 350 carries with 19 rushing touchdowns.
He also had 44 receptions for 470 yards and three receiving touchdowns. Jackson
was not only drafted as a long-term replacement, but he also has a chance to
play a more significant role than most think as a rookie. If Jackson proves to
be up to the challenge, the Rams will likely use a lot more two-back sets with
Faulk and Jackson on the field at the same time.
While Lamar Gordon has not lived up to expectations early on, we still think he
has more upside than he is being given credit for. For starters, he was a raw
prospect from a small school coming out of college. He needed more time to
develop and he made great strides between his rookie and sophomore season in
'03. He does need to prove he can stay healthy and, in our opinion, the Rams
made a mistake by drafting him because he's not a great fit in their offense due
to his poor skills in the passing game.
However, with another season or two of experience as a reserve, he could develop
into a fine backup for Jackson in St. Louis or even could leave via free agency
and push for a starting job on a team with more of a traditional power running
game and offensive scheme.
Arlen Harris, who exceeded expectations as an undrafted rookie free agent last
season, will become the swingman in the backfield and technically will be moved
to a backup fullback role behind Joey Goodspeed. Harris not only handled a
considerable load at running back, but he also did a fine job as a full-time
kickoff return specialist and occasional punt return man.
While Harris should never be more than a reserve in the NFL, he certainly
provides value as an economic utility-type player who can handle some carries,
contribute in the passing game as a running back or fullback, hold his own as a
starting kick returner and fill in if necessary as a punt returner. Harris
clearly was a great find as an undrafted rookie in '03 and he should remain on
the roster for several years as a versatile reserve.
Goodspeed is no James Hodgins, but he showed significant improvements as a
blocker in '03 from what we saw of him early in his NFL career. He obviously
will never have a big role in the Rams' typically wide-open offense, but he does
a fine job as a situational blocker and also proved to be a solid special teams
contributor in '03.
Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce make up one of the NFL's finest receiving tandems.
They have 10 1,000-yard seasons between them and were on pace for an 11th before
Bruce suffered an ankle injury that slowed him late last season.
HoltHolt has clearly developed into the primary target in the passing game. He
has averaged 92.8 receptions the last four seasons and had a career-high 117
receptions in '03. Holt doesn't have great size, isn't the most explosive
receiver after the catch, and his effort as a blocker is inconsistent.
However, he ranks among the elite receivers in every other facet of the game.
His production has been on the rise the past three seasons. At 28, he is in the
prime of his career and, through our evaluation process, he currently grades out
as one of the top-three players in the league at his position.
Bruce, on the other hand, is no longer as explosive as he once was. There are
some minor durability concerns and he clearly is on the downside of his career
at 31. However, he is still in fantastic shape and remains very much a solid
starter. He is a terrific complement to Holt and, what Bruce has lot in speed,
he clearly is making up for with savvy, experience and knowledge of the system.
When Martz's offense was at its best was when Holt and Bruce had two other
legitimate weapons (Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl) working out of the slot
with them. By spreading defenses out, the four receivers were able to work
against more one-on-one man-to-man matchups, or had more room to operate against
Dane Looker and Mike Furrey have played as well as could be imagined as
sub-package receivers, but they do not provide the same mismatches that Hakim
and Proehl once did. If this offense is going to return to its old explosive
form in '04, one of the big keys will be the development of second-year
receivers Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald.
McDonald has the quickness, toughness, speed and hands to become a real weapon
as a slot receiver in the Rams' spread offense. He struggled with some injuries
and was not ready as a rookie, but we expect him to make big strides as a
While McDonald is further along at this point and is actually a better fit as a
No. 3 slot receiver in this offense, Curtis' long-term upside is higher. Curtis
has adequate size but great speed. He flashed a lot of potential in his rookie
training camp and could have a breakout season as a sub-package vertical
receiver who can stretch defenses out a lot better than McDonald can.
If everything works out right, Curtis and McDonald should take over as slot
receivers in the three- and-four receiver sets this season, with Curtis
eventually taking over as Bruce's replacement opposite Holt and McDonald
settling in as a diminutive but quick slot receiver for years to come.
Looker is basically an overachieving possession receiver who takes advantage of
the situation he is in, but would be unable to create on his own if he didn't
have such favorable working conditions. He does give a great effort and his work
ethic is laudable. He also has very good hands and is reliable in the
short-to-intermediate zone. However, Looker is not going to get much better and
is never going to be a great weapon as a slot receiver. In our opinion, he's a
stop-gap solution who won't be in the league much longer than the next two
Furrey saw his first regular-season game experience with the Rams in '03 and
finished with 20 receptions in 13 games played as a No. 3 and No. 4 receiver. He
made the most of his opportunities in '03 and showed some upside in the
meantime. He has good speed and shows some big-play potential in the vertical
However, he has had trouble staying healthy, his route running skills are still
below average, and he still drops too many catchable passes. He still has enough
upside and works hard enough to be considered a solid No. 4 or No. 5
developmental WR with a lot of NFL teams, but he could have a difficult time
making the Rams' regular-season roster in '04 unless they elect to keep six
The tight end position was a weakness last season and not much has changed
since. Rather than overhauling the group and spending a lot of money on a
position that isn't necessarily a huge part of this offense, the Rams are likely
to simply use starter Brandon Manumaleuna more as an in-line blocker and try to
phase him out of the passing game by using more three-and-four receiver sets now
that McDonald and Curtis are healthy and Looker has emerged as at least
ManumaleunaManumaleuna was offered a five-year $8.3 million offer by the
Panthers in the offseason, but because he was a restricted free agent the Rams
were able to match it, which means he will likely be their tight end of the near
future. Manumaleuna will never be a big-play receiver and is inconsistent
because of his poor technique and angles as a blocker, but he continues to
improve with experience and should settle in as a solid short-to-intermediate
weapon in the passing game and a better than average overall blocker.
Cam Cleeland had his best season as a pro since '99 last season when he was able
to stay healthy for all 16 games. He still is a big and reliable target in the
passing game, and still has the agility, size and upper body strength to hold
his own as a blocker. However, he has clearly lost a step, is no longer a
vertical threat, and will never be a great in-line blocker due to his lack of
lower body strength. If he can continue to stay healthy he can be a decent
backup to Manumaleuna in '04 if the team doesn't feel that rookie seventh-round
pick Erik Jensen is ready.
However, if Jensen learns the blocking schemes and has a strong preseason, he
could actually overtake Cleeland for the backup job. He is a solid blocker with
reliable hands who will probably see action behind Manumaleuna in the team's
two-tight sets in the jumbo package.
With two new starters in ROT Kyle Turley and OC Dave Wohlabaugh, and with Andy
McCollum moving from center to left guard, the Rams' offensive line
understandably got off to a slow start last season. However, by the end of the
season, there were few better units in the NFL. With a full season of starting
experience together under its belt and with all five starters returning, the
Rams' offensive line could rank up their in the league with some of the elite
PaceLOT Orlando Pace and Turley make up one of the most talented tackle tandems
in the league. Pace isn't getting any younger, his contract seems to be an
annual problem at this point, and he has had some minor durability problems in
the past, but after he got back into the swing of things in '03 he was as good
if not better than any other tackle in business.. He is still only 28, has few
weaknesses and could be the most dominant offensive lineman in the league when
he is on top of his game.
Turley has had some trouble with his temper in the past, has never had great
lower body strength, and needs to get in consistently good position to win, but
he didn't have many of those problems in '03. He is a great fit for that scheme
because he has terrific feet and mobility as a pass blocker and downfield
blocker. He is still only 28 seems to have grown up a little bit in a new
environment in St. Louis. In our opinion, Turley had his best season in '03 and
should continue to shine with the Rams in '04.
The interior of LOG McCollum, OC Wohlabaugh and ROG Adam Timmerman isn't getting
any younger -- each is entering his 10th NFL season -- but as a group should
improve this season after feeling one another out a season ago.
McCollum is one the downside of his career, he struggled a little bit in his
first season at OG, and lacks ideal athleticism. However, the move was a wise
one for McCollum because he is better when he doesn't have to play in space, and
the Rams are not asking him to pull and trap much from the OG position.
Wohlabaugh lacks ideal size and strength. As a result, he'll never be an
He struggled through some minor injuries in '03, but was able to play through
the pain and, when he was healthy, proved to be a good fit because his quick
feet allow him to help the less athletic McCollum out in space.
Timmerman, on the other hand, rarely needs help on his side. The 32-year old
re-signed with the team in the offseason and likely will finish his career in
St. Louis. He is a very solid veteran who is starting to slow down just a little
bit, but is still playing at a high level and should remain an above average
starter for the next two or three seasons.
While the starting five is outstanding, the depth of this unit is not. Veteran
journeyman Grant Williams has good experience and versatility as the backup to
both Pace and Turley at the LOT and ROT positions, respectively. He is a hard
worker with good size and overall strength, but there has to be a lot of
concerns about his durability, lack of athleticism and below average overall
pass blocking skills.
In our opinion, Williams is an adequate backup ROT in the NFL, but he would be a
liability if he ever had to play for an extended period at LOT. The Rams do not,
however, have any candidates to push Williams for the job in '04, so it is his
to keep unless something changes during the preseason.
Andy King and Scott Tercero will battle it out for the backup positions at left
and right guard. King is still a work-in-progress, but he has flashed very good
feet, quickness and agility, and also has a very good work ethic and has proved
to be durable. He must improve his strength and continue to improve his
technique, but it seems that King's progress is ahead of Tercero's at this
Tercero is an athletic guard who has some upside because of his footwork and
agility. He is a good fit in the Rams' offensive scheme, but needs to prove he
can stay healthy and improve his strength before he can ever be considered a
future replacement at one of the starting guard positions.
As far as it stands right now, the backup OC job is Andy Eby's to lose, but he
will get some competition from rookie seventh-round pick Larry Turner. Eby needs
to get stronger -- particularly in his lower body -- before he can ever be
considered as a possible candidate to push for a starting OC job. He also needs
to prove he can carry this weight and stay healthy.
Not much will change from a scheme standpoint for this unit, as it will remain
an attacking, up-the-field, one-gap group. There are, however, a lot of
questions that need to be answered between now and the start of the season from
a personnel standpoint.
For starters, the defensive end position is in a potential emergency situation
if LDE Leonard Little winds up missing time due to a felony charge for drunk
driving, especially after letting go of veteran RDE Grant Wistrom (Seahawks) in
the offseason. The shame with Little is that he's in the prime of his career and
keeps getting better. He has 39 sacks in the past three seasons and has played
much bigger versus the run than his listed playing weight of 257 pounds would
HolseyVeteran journeyman Bernard Holsey, who led Redskins' defensive linemen
last year with 41 tackles, was signed as insurance. Holsey played mostly inside
last season but has experience at end and likely will play end on running downs
if Little is not available.
In that situation, Holsey would give way on passing downs and could play in a
heavy rotation with Tyoka Jackson, Bryce Fisher, Erik Flowers, rookie
third-round pick Tony Hargrove and Nick Burley, all of whom will compete for
playing time and roster spots as situational pass rushers in training camp.
The Bills signed free agent Sean Moran in the offseason and will likely use him
as a rotating starter at the other end position (RDE) vacated by Wistrom. If
Little doesn't miss part or all of the season, it obviously improves the depth
of this unit and will allow Moran to play less.
However, if the team is forced to use a heavy rotation at left end in Little's
absence, Moran might need to play more than is desirable. Either way, Fisher is
likely to be the primary backup to Moran on the right side and Jackson should be
the primary backup to either Little or Holsey on the left side.
Fisher has shown the upside potential to develop into a starting RDE for the
Rams in the future, but we're not sure that he's ready for that role right now.
He still lacks great lower body strength and, in order to protect himself, needs
to play with more consistent leverage.
He is very active when on the move and can be very productive when fresh, but if
he is forced to play a more consistent role we're not sure that he will hold up
as well. Jackson, on the other hand, will turn 33 during the '04 season and has
lost a step with age, but he is still a very productive situational edge rusher
who will fit well as a complement to Holsey if necessary at left end.
The Rams got a decent value in DE Tony Hargrove in the third round, but he is
very much a risky proposition after sitting out the entire 2003 CFB season due
to academic problems. Hargrove has the physical tools to eventually become
Wistrom's replacement, but he will need some time to get back into football
shape and prove he is capable of handling the role.
Flowers and Burley, on the other hand, are long shots to make the roster. The
Rams signed Flowers in order to give him one last opportunity to prove himself.
He does have an enticing combination of size, speed and athleticism, but has
never been able to translate those physical tools into production on the NFL
level. Burley was a great pass rusher on the college level, but he lacks the
speed and explosiveness to ever make a great impact in that area in the NFL, and
he does not have the size or strength to ever become a first or second down end.
The defensive tackle position is much less confusing but has questions of its
own that need to be answered. As it stands right now, Ryan Pickett will start at
the nose tackle position and Damione Lewis will start next to him at the left
defensive tackle position.
Pickett has been a decent starter the past two seasons for the Rams. He has the
potential to be a very solid starter and a more complete player, but his
technique, durability and conditioning must improve. As it stands right now,
he's a solid run stuffer with upside but has a ways to go before his production
matches his potential.
Lewis has been a disappointment in his first three seasons, and there are major
questions about his ability to stay healthy for a full 16-game schedule.
However, he is a lot more explosive than Pickett and is a great fit as a one-gap
penetrator if he ever plays to his potential level. Lewis has the physical tools
and experience to have a breakout season in '04 if he can stay on the field.
The team is hoping that '03 top pick Jimmy Kennedy bounces back after an abysmal
rookie season. Kennedy is a massive defensive tackle with good quickness for his
size when he is fresh and in shape, but conditioning, durability and weight will
always be variables in his success that are concerns. In a 15-20 play per game
role this season, Kennedy should make progress and stay fresh enough to make an
impact when he is in the game.
Outside of those three, the Rams don't have legitimate depth at the defensive
tackle position to work with, but Holsey can also move inside to give this unit
help in its rotation, especially if Leonard is back on the field.
This unit is an ideal fit for the scheme in terms of its overall athleticism and
speed. Consistency is an issue with three young starters, as is durability with
three undersized linebackers, but MLB Robert Thomas, SLB Tommy Polley and WLB
Pisa Tinoisamoa make up one of the league's youngest and most athletic
linebacking corps in the NFL.
ThomasThomas has had trouble staying healthy, and even when he hasn't missed
games he has played nicked and less than 100-percent. However, when he has been
fully healthy he has shown the potential to develop into a playmaking middle
linebacker. He is an active, high-energy player who does an excellent job in
Thomas is undersized but he knows how to protect himself and has the speed and
athletic ability to do so. He is an every-down player with the potential to
quickly develop into an upper-echelon starter if he can continue to improve his
recognition skills and find a way to stay on the field and healthy.
Of the three starters, Polley graded out the worst from our evaluation last
season, but he is still a solid starter with the potential to develop into an
even better player if he can become more durable and provide more consistency
versus the run.
Tinoisamoa was impressive for a rookie and should only get better with improved
technique and angles. He started 14 of the 16 regular-season games he played in
last season and really developed into a solid starter with a lot of playmaking
potential. Tinoisamoa is an aggressive, attacking and instinctive linebacker
with very good tackling skills and range in coverage.
Tinoisamoa was the only starter in the group to play in all 16 games, which
makes depth a major factor. There are several candidates vying for spots on the
roster as backup linebackers, including Jeremy Loyd, Brandon Spoon and rookie
fourth-round selection Brandon Chillar.
Lloyd was a college SLB who was moved to WLB as a rookie and seemed to have
trouble with his angles and technique in more space. He should be a better fit
at WLB, but needs to make strides at the position and also needs to become more
consistent on special teams in '04 training camp in order to make the Rams'
Spoon was an overachiever coming out of college who made an immediate impact
because of injuries at the LB position in Buffalo in '01, but he has not played
since because of injuries -- most notably a lingering biceps injury that
resulted in surgery.
Spoon was signed during the '04 offseason by the Rams and has a chance to make
their roster as a reserve MLB/SLB who can contribute on special teams. However,
he needs to prove that he can stay healthy and that he has enough special teams'
value in order to make it.
Chillar is a versatile backup who can play both inside and outside for the Rams,
which is exactly what they were looking for. He is athletic and showed flashes
on the college level of becoming a good pass rusher as a blitzing linebacker. As
a rookie, however, he'll have to earn his paycheck on special teams.
New defensive coordinator Larry Marmie will keep the base cover-2 zone scheme
that new Bears head coach Lovie Smith used, but he is expected to add some more
"wrinkles" and more man-to-man looks to it in order to get offenses to guess
more than they have had to in the past.
FisherWhile many believe that Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler make up an
adequate starting tandem at the cornerback position for the Rams, we have to
disagree. Both have very good quickness and are good fits as short-area cover
corners in the cover-2 scheme. They also have improved their aggressiveness and
However, while Fisher is clearly the more developed of the two and has better
speed to turn and run, neither is a good starter in our opinion. They both grade
out as excellent No. 3 cornerbacks who would fit well as slot cover corners, but
are below average as full-time outside starters. If this group is forced to turn
and run more this season with what could be a struggling pass rush if Little has
to miss part or all of the season, the Rams cornerbacks could become a group
that becomes exposed for its lack of size, experience and consistency.
The Rams are much better off at the safety position with SS Adam Archuleta and
FS Aeneas Williams. Archuleta is a dominating run stopper and a presence in the
middle of the field in the passing game. He has quickly become one of the most
effective run-stopping safeties in the NFL and has improved his zone coverage
skills to the point that he has enough range to handle the deep one-half
necessary in the team's base cover-2 scheme.
Archuleta has some limitations in man-coverage, he will always be better near
the line of scrimmage than at the high-point, and durability concerns will never
go away. However, Archuleta has improved to the point now that he can be
considered an upper-echelon starting SS in the NFL.
Williams has clearly lost a couple of steps with age and is likely a season or
two away from retiring. However, the move to FS may have extended his career and
it certainly helped him to use his savvy to make up for what he has lost in
terms of speed and quickness with age.
Williams should remain a solid starting FS in '04 for the Rams and is a good fit
in the Rams' secondary, not only because his style complements Archuleta well,
but also because of the youth that the Rams possess at cornerback with Butler,
Fisher, Kevin Garrett and DeJuan Groce.
The interesting dynamic with this group is that Williams spent a lot of time as
the nickel slot cover corner last season, which led to Rich Coady coming in the
game as the fifth defensive back. If that's the case this season, Coady will
have to fight off rookie fifth-round pick Jason Shivers for playing time in the
However, with second-year cornerbacks Groce and Garrett making progress, the
team would be much more athletic if one of those two could play the nickel
cornerback role, allowing Williams to remain in deep-half coverage in the
cover-2 zone scheme.
Re: Overview from ESPN
Glad to see ESPN has the Bills with Moran.....LOL
Yea, he didn't say anything none of us already know. This defense is either going to break out or bust up.
Re: Overview from ESPN
HHmmmm I was thinking the same TX.... Little is going to play though isn't he?????????
Re: Overview from ESPN
I really think the D is going to be solid this year.
Re: Overview from ESPN
our D WILL be in the middle of the pack ( 13-18) and be mucho malo on the D-line! Dont it sound swell Ethel ? Could happen......
Re: Overview from ESPN
Monday, July 26, 2004
I don't get this, its old...
Re: Overview from ESPN
marccat bumped the topic from 2004...
Re: Overview from ESPN
I think someone got confused.
Originally Posted by Rambos
However I think this team would obliterate that team. Faulk was not Faulk anymore and Jackson was not seasoned yet. Good speed at FB is not as good as Hedge and Leonard. I would rather have Barron over Turley at RT. The interior OL looks better also. I would much rather McMichael and Klop at TE Manu. I like Ferrotte better then Chandler. I like Bennett better as a #3 WR. We have a better return guy in Dante Hall. I like the combo of Draft and experienced Chillar better then Polley at OLB. I also like Spoon better then Thomas at MLB. I like Brown and Hill are better then Fisher and Butler. I would rather have this years Chavous and Atogwe over 2004 Arch and Aeneas. At nickle I would rather have Bartell over Groce. I also like our DL better with Little, Carriker, Glover, Hall then with Little, Pickett, Lewis, Fisher.
I think this years version would beat that year version easily. I think we have a better team this year going into the season then we did in 2004. However some guys are aging a bit. But the ones that are still starters are still very productive and have not lost much yet.
Re: Overview from ESPN
Hey! Wow! Rams of 2004.
Went 8-8 and were beaten solely by Allen Rossum and Warrick Dunn in the playoffs.
Dear god, please grant us more success in our season of need.